IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ralph Yarl's family sues homeowner in wrong-door shooting

The family also blames the homeowners association for allegedly failing to do enough to prevent the attack.
Ralph Yarl sits for a portrait
Ralph Yarl in Kansas City, Mo., this month.Dominick Williams for NBC News

The family of Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager who survived being shot in the head after he rang the wrong doorbell in Kansas City, Missouri, filed a lawsuit Monday against the white homeowner who fired at him.

The lawsuit filed in Clay County Circuit Court says that Andrew Lester was careless in shooting Yarl, now 17, and that the Highland Acres Homes Association should have been aware of Lester’s “propensity for violence, access to dangerous weapons and racial animus.”

Both Lester and the homeowners association are named as defendants. Messages for Lester’s lawyer, Steven Salmon, weren’t returned Monday, and the homeowners' association could not be reach for comment.

The family says in the lawsuit that Lester never gave Yarl a verbal warning before firing his gun and that he should have known Yarl wasn’t a threat.

Yarl went to the wrong house on April 13, 2023, to pick up his two younger brothers. When he rang the doorbell, Lester, then 85, fired multiple rounds from a handgun, grazing Yarl in the head and striking him in the arm.Lester called police, telling them he fired because he was scared.

The shooting sparked protests across the country and demands for Lester’s immediate arrest. Lester surrendered to police days later after being charged with first-degree assault, a felony, and armed criminal action. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled to start Oct. 7.

Yarl’s mother, Cleo Nagbe, could not be reached for comment. In a statement, she said that by filing the lawsuit, she hoped to start a dialogue on responsible gun ownership and community safety measures "of using words, not weapons.”

“It’s disheartening that a year has passed without tangible progress or accountability for the grave injustice inflicted upon Ralph," Nagbe said. "No child should fear for their life simply for innocently ringing a doorbell at the wrong house.”

Earlier this month, Yarl exclusively told NBC News how he coped with the shooting. 

“It’s definitely a bumpy journey,” Yarl said in his first in-depth interview about how the shooting had affected him a year later.

“Whenever there’s something that goes on that reminds me of what happened ... I just have, like, such a negative wave of emotions, like anger, like disgust,” he said. “It’s always a mix of good and bad days. And I feel like the good days are when I’m able to be around people that help me build myself up.”

The family is seeking unspecified compensation, court costs and legal fees.